What is worldliness? Churches seem to disagree in their conceptions of it. A certain Mennonite pastor is worldly in the eyes of some of his people because he wears a necktie. One pastor’s wife was called worldly because she wore high-heeled shoes. I once saw a girl refuse a string of synthetic pearls offered as a birthday gift; she considered them too worldly. A high school boy, responding to the invitation at a city-wide evangelistic meeting, asked his counselor if he would have to give up football; his parents thought it worldly. Some have taught that drinking soda pop from a bottle is worldly. (It’s all right from a glass!) Others judge whether a woman is worldly by her hairstyle or makeup. Then, of course, there are the perennial questions about movies, dancing, and cards.

Complicating the issue is the sometimes questionable use of Scripture to condemn these practices. The young lady who refused the pearls—and wounded a weak believer in the process—believed she had Scripture on her side: “… women [should] adorn themselves in modest apparel … not with … pearls” (1 Tim. 2:9).

Two observations are in order here. First, it is true that matters of dress and appearance are subjects of scriptural concern. Both this passage and First Peter 3 contain admonitions along this line. However, it is plainly the intent of these Scriptures that women should be modest in appearance, which may permit quite different apparel now than it did in Bible times, and that, most important, they should be concerned primarily with the beauty of the inner person (1 Pet. 3:4). A plain appearance does not guarantee inner beauty, though a preoccupation with outward appearance admittedly works against ...

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